RIVERDALE -- Chicken owners will have to wait a little longer to find out if they can keep their birds. The planning commission has rejected an ordinance that would allow six chickens in residential zones, but the city council is still undecided.
"For the planning commission, the bottom line is that people who live in residential zones should be allowed to live in the area without the threat of farm animals next door to them ... for residential zones first and foremost is the enjoyment of their property as a residence," said Randy Daily, community development director.
The ordinance prohibits roosters, objectionable smells and coops that can be seen from a neighboring property. Police Chief Dave Hansen said the police department has never received a complaint about chickens, but prohibiting them would help animal control enforce nuisance laws if complaints arise.
Three families spoke in favor of the ordinance at Tuesday's city council meeting, and several others addressed the planning commission during a public hearing or wrote letters in favor of chickens. Brent Coy said his family has owned chickens since June and a survey of his neighbors shows none considers his chickens a nuisance, and most did not know he had them.
"My siblings and I really enjoy our chickens," 15-year-old Mikayla Coy said. "If the weather is good, we will go outside and play with them. We each have different things that we love to do with our chickens. My brothers love digging up insects and watching our chickens eat them. My little sister loves to go outside and sit on the swings with a chicken on her lap. I enjoy calling the chickens and sharing my food with them. I love my chickens and really don't want to get rid of them."
Councilwoman Shelly Jenkins opposed the ordinance.
"Chickens are a farm animal. We are moving to an urban feel and away from farm animals. ... people might wonder if this is the Beverly Hillbillies in an urban environment," she said.
Councilmen Alan Arnold and David Gibby each said chickens are less of a nuisance than dogs and they feel the ordinance may be too restrictive.
"In the famous words of Chicken Little, the sky is not falling. (Animal control) is not going to be rounding up chickens. That hasn't been happening ... I don't think it's our responsibility to create a pre-emptive babysitting situation. If a problem occurs, then we can address it."
Councilman Don Hunt said he does not support chickens in residential zones with rental units. Councilman Norm Searle said chickens can be a part of self-sufficiency, and he may favor allowing them as a conditional use. The council unanimously chose to table the ordinance and provide feedback on it to staff by Jan. 28.